Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Business of Art

Who in their right mind would schedule a full-day Business of Art seminar on a Monday? Idiots. Maybe I could arrange a day off from work next time they did it, but I was too busy now.

Then I got the email that said that there were still seats available at this Saturday's BoA seminar. Saturday? I double-checked my calendar. Idiot! I signed up.

The Visual Art Exchange of Raleigh, the go-to place for area artists, was the sponsor. They'd recently moved from City Center (I think it's called) to the "warehouse district." Uh oh, downsizing. But when I arrived in the deserted neighborhood (sue me; I figured out a short cut and arrived quite early) I discovered that their place is actually larger than what they had and that their foot traffic has doubled. Within an hour there was no parking to be found and the few homeless people I'd walked by had been replaced by bustling, everyday pedestrians.

The seminar schedule was loaded and policed for time. We covered: What are galleries looking for? How do I work my portfolio? Is there some place that will help me design my website? Where do I find exhibition opportunities? Should I teach? How do I promote myself? and What the heck is Etsy? The schedule thus covered everything a professional artist needed to know, except how to handle a street festival and the like. For that, Jerry's Artarama holds classes by M. Theresa Brown and Steve Filarsky.

I returned home with acres of urls which advertise all kinds of opportunities for shows and galleries seeking new artists, at both state and national levels. This was aided by having a panel on which we had two opposing gallery reps. One's gallery specialized in corporate clients, and we learned how to Google for the kinds of subjects and colors that corporations want in their offices. With them you're matching the furniture and decor, not creating the next Picasso. This busy gallery said they had almost zero walk-in traffic.

The other gallery specialized in regional art and, due to their downtown location near hotels and the convention center, specialized in walk-in traffic, people looking for art done in NC that they could take back home. I'll certainly be checking them out!

The most fascinating part of the day to me was the section on portfolios. I'm anxious to present myself to large galleries. I've been told my work is at gallery level. But I discovered that one has to show consistency in one's work. I need to have a series—done recently—of from 10 to 15 pieces. This way if a customer comes in and likes my style, but doesn't quite like the painting they're looking at, the gallery can take them aside and show them similar paintings that might be just what they're looking for.

This is what you spotlight in your portfolio. But the portfolio has other things in it as well:

• An Artist's Statement
• Your resume, listing lots and lots of recent shows. Uh, I'll have to work on that as well.
• Bio: I have a really snappy bio, invoking how my hometown was the scene for one of the Nineteenth Century's most famous cases of spirit possession. Unfortunately, this seminar said that bios need to be one paragraph.
• Your artwork: the 10-15 paintings talked about above.
• Business card, press clippings, etc.
• Probably a CD with your portfolio on it, to leave at places. (One person later in the day gave a horror story of how, even though she'd left SASEs with her portfolios during a PR effort that had her sending out twelve at once, galleries had kept and lost ten of hers. Better to lose a cheap CD than a $42 portfolio.)

In addition to this portfolio, you need to have:
• A CD of said portfolio, as noted above. This can also have additional folders containing other series you have going as well as a folder called "Sold Work." Word docs should be saved in pdf form.
• An online portfolio containing all of above. This way if you're communicating via email, you can just use the url and people can check your stuff out immediately. Since your resume and/or portfolio pages will have your phone number, I think that making this a private page on your website—not one listed in your menu—would likely be a good idea. Keep the weirdos at bay, and all that.

And of course your portfolio needs to be kept up to date.

Guess I'll have to join the VAE. I've been thinking for years about doing it. Once you've joined, you can have your portfolio critiqued, and gain access to a site that has every worksheet from every seminar they've put on. There are other perks involved as well.

I'd hoped to have the art section of my own website updated by the end of this weekend, but the seminar cut my time available by half. Even so, I have one page finished. I'll announce on Facebook when it's all done. Give a yell if you can't access anything or something looks odd.